“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” These wise words were from John F Kennedy and got us thinking about how to actually live in continued expressed gratitude. We therefore devised a little guide to help us all live with an attitude of gratitude throughout our recovery.
One: Tell others when you appreciate them
Take a moment to think how great it makes you feel when someone acknowledges or appreciates something you’ve done. Writing a thank you note to someone who has shown you kindness, or expressing it verbally will reinforce your own sense of gratitude. You will also find that being able to vocalize your thank-you will enhance your relationships with people, strengthening your social bonds and making you feel more emotionally connected to those around you.
Two: Find gratitude in the difficult moments
It may seem like a contradiction in terms to be grateful for the adversity we face, but sometimes thinking about negative or difficult experiences can help us see the positive in the present moment. Think back to a really challenging time you experienced and think about what you learned. Undoubtedly, you grew from the experience, however painful it was at the time.
Three: Be of service
Giving back to others helps you remember how far you’ve come. Studies have shown that those who volunteer their time to help others increase their own well-being which in turn boosts your ability to feel gratitude.
Four: Keep a gratitude journal
Start getting into the routine of writing down five things that you are grateful for each day. In early recovery, it can be difficult to believe that there is anything to make you grateful. Start with the simple, obvious things like the fact that you have air in your lungs, clothes on your back and food in your belly. It’s more than some people have.
Often gratitude can just be a shift in perspective, learning to recognize how lucky you are for the things you have often taken for granted.
You can fill your journal with anything you like. There are big things like the love of your nearest and dearest or not having died during your last relapse. Or you may just be grateful that your partner didn’t use all the milk and you were able to have cereal this morning. Don’t forget to write down the small stuff – it all adds up and makes a big difference.
Five: Avoid negativity
Try to go an entire day without complaining or criticizing yourself or others. At first, you may be shocked to find that by eliminating negativity you have little left to say. Realizing that you spend so much time focusing on the negative is a wake-up call. Encouraging yourself to avoid negative thoughts and remarks should motivate you to look for something positive to say and reinforce your grateful outlook on life.
Six: 12 step meetings
The community within the 12 step fellowships are constantly there supporting and listening to you. An important part of the 12 steps is a connection to a Higher Power which gives you another dimension to express gratitude. Sharing that you are grateful for the people who support you, the meetings themselves and your Higher Power allows you to express gratitude and be of service.
Seven: Commit to quality time with those you love
We are often so wrapped up in ourselves and what is happening in our own lives that we are unable to be totally present. Commit to spending at least an hour of good quality time every day with someone you care about. That means putting your phone away, actively listening, and partaking in the conversations you have with them. If it’s time with your children, take a real interest in what they are doing and attempt to fully enter their worlds for an hour. Not only will this strengthen your relationship with these people that you care deeply for, but it will also you the time to reflect on why you love them so much and how grateful you are to have them in your life.
Eight: Build on your happiness and make new connections
Try taking up a new hobby or joining a group doing something you already know you enjoy. Running clubs and craft groups can allow you to share something you enjoy with others of similar interests. Once your notice your mood lifting even more gratitude will become easier again. Our brain is an incredible machine and oiling it daily with a dose of gratitude will help all other areas of your life run more smoothly.